Topic: The bud on oolong teas

I have noticed with many Taiwan oolong teas, the leaves are left on the stem and you often find a set of 2 or 3 leaves and a bud.

With Anxi oolongs the leaves are never left on the stems by the time it reaches the drinker.

Why is this?

One theory I had was that Taiwan oolong is generally made with younger leaves. I have noticed that the stems from anxi TGY are often much thicker than those found in most Taiwan oolongs. When my friend taught me how to de-stem TGY, he said that the stems generally hold more moisture than the leaves, because they are thicker and don't dry off as much in the final roasting. For this reason it is important to get rid of the stems, otherwise the moisture content will leach into the leaves eventually making them sour.

When sorting TGY we also made sure not to include any of the buds or tips as they would make the tea astringent. We also discarded many of the lighter coloured leaves. These are called 黄片 huangpian/yellow leaves and they make the TGY more fragrant, but too many will take away from the flavour of the soup as well as make it more astringent.

Can anyone tell me about sorting Taiwanese teas? do you discard huangpian? are Taiwan teas not sorted as carefully on purpose, or is labour just too expensive? Are some of the thicker stems discarded, or are all the Taiwan oolong stems thin and tender?

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

2 (edited by william 2008-12-02 19:07:15)

Re: The bud on oolong teas

I don't have a really good answer for you, especially in terms of whether buds (or huangpian) make tea astringent, though I know too much huangpian is a bad sign in pu'er usually too. I thought pu'er cakes with a lot of buds were supposed to be more sweet than astringent, though. I don't recall seeing much or any of it in most of the Taiwanese teas I've tried. Maybe someone who knows more can weigh in about some of the specifics here.

Wiry Taiwanese teas and Taiwan grown TGY usually have one leaf AFAIK. It's mostly high mountain style teas that have two leaves, one bud, and a stem. Conversely, Taiwan style teas grown / processed in mainland China usually have the two leaves / bud / stem pattern.

are Taiwan teas not sorted as carefully on purpose, or is labour just too expensive? Are some of the thicker stems discarded, or are all the Taiwan oolong stems thin and tender?

As a vast generalization,  I think Taiwanese teas usually look much nicer (in terms of leaf quality) than teas from mainland China, and are processed with more care. I definitely don't think the stems are left because of the cost of labor, in fact, I have seen vendors claim that the leaf / bud / stem pattern is an indication of hand harvesting / processing. The stem thickness varies. I suppose it depends exactly where you chop off the stem, and also the stems may be thicker during certain harvests (??) - not 100% sure about that.

See item 3 under:
http://www.houdeasianart.com/index.php?main_page=faq

Of course, it is certainly possible for single leaf teas to be hand harvested as well.

There has been a lot of discussion in various places about whether stems are desirable or not in tea. My very unscientific opinion is that while stems may just be added to make up extra weight, I often tend to prefer tea with a lot of stem, both for oolongs and pu'er. But then again, kukicha (茎茶, made of tea stems and twigs) is one of the only Japanese teas I really enjoy drinking.

Re: The bud on oolong teas

william wrote:

Of course, it is certainly possible for single leaf teas to be hand harvested as well.

I know that with tieguanyin which winds up in your cup is processed in leaf sets. In China it is usually sold to the vendors as 'maocha' and they strip the leaves off the stems and sort out some huangpian before packaging and selling it.

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

Re: The bud on oolong teas

Ya, I as well think it's matter of discarding/not, rather than quality of leaf.

Most of those rolled Oolongs are plucked 一芽二葉 one-sprout-two-leaves or 一芽三葉 one-sprout-three-leaves, TGY however go thru discarding done 'specially with better quality-ones.

BTW I as well found TGY leaf thicker comparing to Taiwanese leaf after chewing em all.

一杯一杯復一杯

Re: The bud on oolong teas

In Taiwan, you will still find traditional processes that are, as you guys observed, more labor intensive. I sat through 1/2 of the process of a moderate-heavy roast Tieguanyin (Will, I think you may have tried that one, it's similar to the Hou De one you have).  The master roaster, as I've observed, does indeed separate the stems from the leaves, which I think he keeps for himself to drink as a fun, leftover tea (kind of like a kukicha, but "nuttier because of the roasting).  My teas, of which I have several Taiwanese TGY's of various quality levels, are almost all leaves, moderately oxidized and with various degrees of roasting.

I enjoy TGY and a good Anxi one is exquisite. However, I have had a lot of difficulty finding a really good one in the past several years.  Many tea experts have told me that due to the commercialization of tea, it's hard to find a really good, properly oxidized and roasted traditional style TGY in Anxi.  Additionally, I've been told that bulk sales of tea there means that you may have a product that is a blend of several yields, something that doesn't happen with my TGY folks in Taiwan.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but to me, it produces inconsistencies in the tea and brews.

Re: The bud on oolong teas

per this thread: http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?p=79748#79748
I wanted to check whether Taiwanese "Mu Zha" TGY was produced using the traditional single leaf pattern rather than two leaves / stem. Of the two I had around, the older one ('94 from Hou De, pictured on right) mostly followed the traditional pattern, whereas a more recent (2007 from J-Tea in Eugene OR, pictured on the left) mostly followed two leaves / stem (didn't see any buds).


http://veggiechinese.net/mu_zha_tgy_leaves2.jpg
http://veggiechinese.net/mu_zha_tgy_leaves.jpg

Re: The bud on oolong teas

I took a look at my muzha TGY again and they are a lot like the ones you got from Hou De, except mostly leaf and little stem.  I've seen that for competition-level high-mountain teas, the farmers will often pick off the stems after processing - but this is mostly just for submission to the competitions as it's labor and time intensive.  I have some greener TGY from Anxi and Taiwan, some of which have a few leaves and some of which are pretty broken up.  I didn't notice intact buds on the sets, though.

Re: The bud on oolong teas

RTea wrote:

I took a look at my muzha TGY again and they are a lot like the ones you got from Hou De, except mostly leaf and little stem.  I've seen that for competition-level high-mountain teas, the farmers will often pick off the stems after processing - but this is mostly just for submission to the competitions as it's labor and time intensive.  I have some
greener TGY from Anxi and Taiwan, some of which have a few leaves and some of which are pretty broken up.  I didn't notice intact buds on the sets, though.

So yours are just a single leaf mostly (not connected at all), or two leaves connected together?

Re: The bud on oolong teas

Hey, single leaf for the traditional stuff, and some of my new stuff is connected, and some of it is fragmented (probably because it was machine harvested?).  Leaf texture, color and thickness also vary greatly.